HONG KONG: Thousands of protesters in defiance of police order convened in a small rural town of Hong Kong where suspected gang members assaulted pro-democracy protesters and passersby last weekend.
On began as a peaceful march to denounce the violence at a subway station in Yuen Long slowly led to standoffs with riot police, who fired rounds of rubber-coated bullets and tear gas and advanced to disperse crowds. In some areas, there were clashes as protesters pushed back against police by throwing umbrellas and bottles.
Hong Kong Police said protesters “hurled bricks and hard objects” at them. Shortly after, riot police stormed the subway station and used batons to disperse protesters. Footage shows blood on the station floor.
Max Chung, the applicant for the march, estimated that 288,000 people participated in the demonstration. Police did not provide a figure.
The police this week came under heavy criticism for an apparent failure to stop the violence against the protesters on July 21, when an attack in Yuen Long by a mob of white-clad, rod-wielding men left at least 45 people, including members of the media, injured.
Twelve people were arrested after last Sunday’s violence, including some with links to criminal groups known as the triads.
As the outcry over a now-suspended extradition bill that would allow criminals to be sent to mainland China for trial continues, protests are spreading into deeper pockets of the territory and reaching more remote communities.
Demonstrators march to protest against the Yuen Long attacks in Yuen Long
Dubbed Take Back Yuen Long, Saturday’s rally took aim at “terrorism”, according to Chung, who applied to police on Tuesday for permission for the march to take place in the northern town.
But on Thursday, police issued a letter of objection for the rally, citing concerns for public safety and order.
“The march is triggered by the violent incidents last Sunday and protesters have shown hostility towards some Yuen Long residents,” Anthony Tsang Ching-fo, the acting New Territories North regional commander, said on Thursday, according to the South China Morning Post.
“There is a fairly high chance for both sides to clash.”